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life:" and thus they receive “ redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of all their sins.”
We must not however imagine that God elects any in a way inconsistent with his own honour. He does not by a mere absolute decree forgive them: he does not so overlook the honour of his own law, or disregard the demands of his own truth and justice. On the contrary, he provides for them a Saviour, through whose atoning blood they may be forgiven, and in whose obedience they may find a justifying righteousness.
If he elected them simply to salvation without any regard to an atonement, he would exercise one attribute at the expense of all the rest: but in electing them to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, he provides for the honour of his broken law, and maintains in united and harmonious exercise the glory of all his perfections: he provides, that “Mercy and truth should meet together, and righteousness and peace should kiss each other m."]
As Christ redeems whom the Father has elected, so those, whom Christ has redeemed, III. The Spirit sanctifies
It is in reality through the influence of the Holy Ghost that the souls of the elect are sprinkled with the blood of Christ : because it is He who reveals Christ unto them, and enables them to believe on him. But, besides this, “ The Spirit sanctifies them to obedience”
To this are the elect chosen, as to the means whereby their ultimate salvation shall be attained
[It would be dishonourable to God if an unholy creature were admitted to a participation of his throne: nor, could suppose such a creature admitted into heaven, could he be happy there ; because he would want all the dispositions which were necessary to qualify him for the enjoyment of that holy place. On this account God has ordained to sanctify his elect in body, soul, and spirit, and to “transform them into his own image in righteousness and true holiness."]
And this work he has committed to the Holy Spirit
[The Spirit originally breathed upon the face of the waters, and reduced the chaotic mass to order and beauty. So does he move upon the believer's soul. Whatever is corrupt, he mortifies; whatever is wanting, he supplies.
m Ps. lxxxv. 10.
Above all, he reveals the Saviour to the soul, and thereby changes the soul progressively into the Saviour's imagen. This is precisely what St. Paul also has spoken in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians: “We are bound to give thanks to God for you all, brethren, beloved, because God hath chosen you to salvation (there is the end) through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Here are the means to that end, even faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his atoning blood; and the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit upon the soul.] INFER1. Of what infinite value are the souls of men !
[Every one carries about him a treasure which God himself covets. The Father has given his only dear Son to redeem it: and Christ has shed his own blood to purchase it: and the Holy Ghost is ever striving with us, to make us surrender it up willingly to God - O that men would view their souls in this light, and bestow upon them the care which they so richly deserve! ---]
2. What encouragement has every man to seek after salvation !
[The doctrines of election, of faith in Christ, and of the influences of the Holy Spirit, are supposed by many to create despondency. But, if duly considered, they afford the best possible antidote to despair. Suppose a person to be bowed down under a sense of his own guilt and weakness, is it no comfort to him to reflect, that the Father may elect whomsoever he will; that the blood of Christ is sufficient to cleanse from guilt even of the deepest dye; and that the Holy Spirit can renew and sanctify a soul, however inverate its corruptions be? Let this then be the improvement made of these doctrines; and they will soon commend themselves by their cheering and transforming efficacy ---] n 2 Cor. iii. 18.
o 2 Thess. ii. 13.
REGENERATION CONSIDERED. 1 Pet. i. 3–5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
AMONGST the many distinguishing characters of the true Christian, this is not the least remarkable, that he can rejoice in the midst of the heaviest tribulations. Others may be patient under them : but no man who is not born of God can attain this high state of feeling, to glory in them. The Christians to whom the Apostle wrote were in a state of very severe affliction, scattered over divers countries, whither they had been driven by the violence of persecution. Yet, how did the Apostle address them? in terms of pity or condolence ? No: but in terms of the sublimest congratulation. He thinks not of what man has done against them, but of what God has done for them; and bursts forth in this rapturous strain : “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of his abundant mercy hath begotten us again !” The recollection of the mercy vouchsafed to them by regeneration swallowed up all thought of their trials, and superseded, for a time, all mention of their sufferings.
The terms in which regeneration is here spoken of will lead us to consider it in, I. Its nature
Regeneration is a spiritual and supernatural change of heart
[Many, when they hear this word, are ready to merge its import altogether in the rite of baptism. I deny not, but that the word “regeneration” is used in Scripture as synonymous with baptism; and it was properly so used; because in baptism there is a real change of state ; and there was good reason to hope that, in the person submitting to that rite there was also a change of nature : nor can I doubt, but that, wherever baptism is duly received, there is a descent of the Holy Spirit upon the soul, to seal it with a blessing from on high. But the strongest advocates for baptismal regeneration will not deny, but that the spiritual gift is that in which we are chiefly interested; and that, without that, the outward act would be of little value. And God forbid that we should be disputing about a term, when our main concern should be about the blessing connected with it!
All are agreed, that we must be baptized with the Holy Ghost: all are agreed, that we must be made “ partakers of a new and a divine nature," and becomes new creatures in Christ Jesus b;" in a word, all agree, that, in order to be children of God, we must be “ begotten of God:” and that being admitted, I am indifferent as to the name by which it shall be called: call it a new birth, a new creation, a renewal in the spirit of the mind, or a conversion of soul to God; only let an entire change of heart and life be included in it, and (though one word may more strictly and appositely express it than another) we are satisfied. Suffice it to say, that “ a new heart must be given us, and a new spirit be put within us;" and that this change is essential to us, as children of God.]
a 2 Pet. i. 4.
It is this that distinguishes the Lord's people from all the rest of the world
[The natural man possesses nothing but what he brought into the world with him. His faculties may be of the first order, so far as they relate to earthly things: yet is he as blind as others in relation to heavenly things. In order to comprehend these, he must have a spiritual discernment'; which can only be given to him from above. This may be possessed by the poorest and most illiterate man, whilst it is withheld from the wise and prudent. In fact, God has so ordered it, that “ what he has hid from the wise and prudent, should be revealed unto babes d." and there are but “ few of the wise and learned, in comparison,” to whom this gift is imparted; for “ God has chosen the weak and foolish, on purpose to confound the wise and mightye.” Nor is this a mere conceit: it is proved by the life and conversation of all who are born of God. They shew that they have a view of God and of eternity, which others do not possess : and, in consequence of this view, they manifest a heavenliness, both of heart and life, which others cannot attain. Being born of God, they live no longer to themselves, but unto Him who begat them, and to Him who redeemed them with his blood.]
But in the passage before us we are more particularly led to notice regeneration in, II. Its causesThe great efficient cause of it is God
[Jehovah, in the Old Testament, is called “the God of Abraham:" but to us he is revealed under the more endearing title of the “ God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and our God and Father in him. In this relation he is considered as
b 2 Cor. v. 17.
c 1 Cor. ii. 14.
“ begetting us again;" and forming us, as it were, altogether anew. This he does by the operation of his word upon the hearts and consciences of men, and by the Almighty power of his Spirit working effectually in them. Hence we are said to be" born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." In like manner we are said to be “born of the Spirit 8.” And this birth is not only distinguished from, but put in direct opposition to, the natural birth of man; for “to as many as receive Christ, to them gives he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God h.” Here, then, the efficient cause of our regeneration is distinctly marked: it is not effected by any power which is possessed by the man himself, or by others over him, or by any created being: it must be traced to God himself, to God only, to God entirely, to God exclusively.] The moving cause of it is his "mercy"
[Man never merited it; never asked it; never of himself desired it. God, who sees us when dead in trespasses and sins, is moved only by his own “mercy” towards us, to impart unto us this transcendent gift. He saw us, like new-born infants, “ lying in our blood; and bade us livei." O! who can ever appreciate this blessing aright? Who can ever estimate the blessing of being " begotten of God," and " born of God ?" To be begotten and born of an earthly monarch were nothing in comparison of it; nothing in respect of honour; nothing in respect of benefit. That we were created men, was grace; because we might have been of a lower order of beings, like beasts: but to be new-created, after that we were fallen, and by this new creation to be made sons of God, is not only
mercy,” but such mercy as never was vouchsafed to the angels that fell: no; it was reserved for us : and "abundant” mercy it was! The very angels in heaven have not in this respect been so highly favoured as we: for they can sing of grace only: whereas we, when we had abused and forfeited all the blessings of grace, had them all restored to us through the tender mercy of our God.]
The instrumental or procuring cause of it was the Lord Jesus Christ
[In general, the blessings of salvation are traced to the death of Christ, as their procuring cause. And such, no doubt, it was: for by it we are reconciled to God, and obtain the
f 1 Pet. i. 23. See also Jam. i. 18. h John i. 12, 13.
8 John iii. 5, 6. i Ezek. xvi. 6.